By Rabbi Binyamin Krausz
Former Rosh Kollel (Perth, 2008 -12)
Currently a teacher and educator in “Nativ”
Our Parashah, “Tazria“, deals with two main issues. It begins with the laws of a woman who has given birth to a Baby – boy or girl, and then proceeds to discuss the different forms of Tzara’at – Leprosy. This section discussing Tzara’at takes up the majority of the Parashah, dealing with the minute details of different forms of Tzara’at, and what marks define a Tzara’at as one that needs to be dealt with.
The existence of Leprosy is not seen in the Torah as one of a medical context, but as a cause of Tum’ah – spiritual uncleanliness. A person whose signs of the Leprosy that appear on his skin (or clothes) correspond to the definitions of the Torah – is declared as Tameh – spiritually unclean, and must go through a process of spiritual cleansing in order to purify him. It is not just being defined as Tameh, that causes the person to feel ‘uncomfortable” with this situation, but the accompanying sanction that the Torah casts upon the Metzorah is certainly a very heavy one – He is cast out of the ‘camp’ – he must leave his neighborhood and family, and live as an outcast on the fringes of society. (This famously brings Chazal to see the cause of Tzara’at in an anti-social conduct of the bearer of Tzara’t – having caused separation between his fellowmen by speaking Lashon HaRa – gossiping and slandering).
Only after the Metzorah has spent time out of the camp, and only once the signs that have brought upon him this state of Tumah of Tzara’at are cleared, can we start considering cleansing him from his Tumah. This demands of him a very arduous process that includes bringing a sacrifice to the Mikdash or Mishkan – the Temple, and requires him to shave off all his hair, and after an interim period of a week where he returns to his neighborhood – but is still considered Tameh although on a smaller scale, he needs to again shave all his hair and bring another sacrifice, and only then is he considered finally Tahor – Purified from the Tzara’at.
But this is not done alone – there is a very significant role that needs to be active in this process – and that is the role of the Kohen. Not only is it the Kohen that can declare, and through this declaration put into effect, the Tum’ah of Tzaraat on the person, but it is only through the Kohen, that the process of purification can start “rolling”. The Torah describes this in the very first Psukim of the next Parashah:
“This shall be the law of the person afflicted with Tzara’ath, on the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought to the Kohen. The Kohen shall go outside the camp, and the Kohen shall look, and behold, the lesion of Tzara’ath has healed in the afflicted person”.
When we look closer at these Psukim we find that there is something unusual with the way the Torah describes the interaction between the Kohen and the person who is Tameh. The Torah first says that the afflicted person shall be brought to the Kohen, but then immediately says “The Kohen shall go outside the camp” – so does the person come to the Kohen, or does the Kohen come to him?
The different commentaries explain this discrepancy in different ways, but I would like to focus on the way the “Torat Kohanim” (the Halachik Midrash on the book of Vayikra) explains it. The Torat Kohanim sees the Passuk that says that the Kohengoes outside the camp, not as describing what the Kohen does, but rather as coming to define- which Kohen can take the roll of purifying the afflicted person. The Torahdefines that this Kohen must be such that can “go outside the camp”, meaning that the Kohen must be himself pure and inside the camp, and so needs to leave the camp in order to see the Metzorah. If the Kohen is himself Metzorah – afflicted, then he cannot go outside the camp, since he is already outside, and cannot “go out” of the camp.
What we can take from this, is that the Torah is telling us, that a person who wants to correct a situation of disorder, must be himself connected to the goal that he wants to achieve through this activity. A person who he himself is lacking and not perfected in relation to what he is coming to correct and advance, cannot be part of the solution to this deficiency.
But maybe there is another insight “hidden” in what the Torah teaches us how to deal with this situation of wanting to take a central role in this “Tikkun“. One needs to be prepared to “go out of the camp”- be prepared to forsake the warm environment that one is safe within, be prepared to leave the comfort zone, and join the afflicted – those who are in need of our help. Only once one is prepared to do so, then the road is clear to advance and heal what needs healing.
Looking at how Chazal read the instructions of the Torah to the Kohen taking a roll in purifying his fellow Jew from tzara’at, we can see that the secret of creating a Tikkunis double. On the one hand one needs to be connected to the Ideal you are striving to achieve and spread, and on the other hand you must also be prepared to go out of your natural environment, in order to connect to whoever is not yet connected.
This requires us – if we want to create a connection in Am Yisra’el, and bring together those who are outside the camp by enabling them to return to the camp – to put an effort also in empowering our connection to Am Yisrae’l and Torat Yisra’el, and with that power leave our comfort zone and connect to Am Yisra’el wherever they are – physically and spiritually.
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